A worker at an aviation company breached his employment agreement by bidding for, and winning, a contract with Tauranga Airport against his employer.

Employment Relations Authority member Andrew Dallas found Christopher Walters breached his employment agreement in bidding for a rescue fire service contract at Tauranga Airport while an employee of Sunair Aviation Limited.

Sunair employed Mr Walters as a rescue fire service operator from June 2008 to March 31, 2015.

The company had provided fire rescue services to Tauranga Airport between 1988 and 2015 on a casual basis.


In January 2015, the airport's owners Tauranga City Council called for tenders for the rescue fire service contract, and in February, Mr Walters and his wife submitted a bid in the name of Advanced Aviation Services. He was still an employee of Sunair.

Four days later, Sunair submitted its tender for the contract and on the same day, advised its three employees within the rescue fire service, including Mr Walters, that their jobs depended on the company winning the contract.

On February 20, Sunair manager and part-owner William Power was formally advised his company had been unsuccessful in its tender and that the contract had been awarded to Mr Walter and Advanced Aviation Services. Sunair came second to Advanced Aviation Services on tender price, Tauranga City Council later revealed.

Eight days later, Sunair advised its rescue fire services team they would be redundant from April 1.

Around this time, Mr Walters advised Mr Power he would be offering employment to one of his colleagues.

In March, Mr Walters was still an employee at Sunair, so the company began an employment investigation alleging a breach of contractual obligations, which was not completed by the time Mr Walters' employment ended.

Mr Power complained to Tauranga City Council and the council began its own investigation, which concluded the tender process was fair and reasonable.

In going to the Employment Relations Authority, Sunair contended that Mr Walters breached the obligations he owed to the company by tendering for the contract while still employed by Sunair. Mr Walters denied this.

Mr Dallas found that Mr Walters had breached his employment agreement in bidding for the contract while an employee of Sunair.

Mr Dallas also concluded that Mr Walters breached the duty of fidelity he owed to Sunair, but that he did not owe fiduciary obligations to Sunair.

He reserved the issue of costs, suggesting the parties may be able to work this out between themselves. If not, further investigation would be needed into the tender process and the likelihood of Sunair winning the contract if Mr Walters' bid failed.